A Day at the Office

10

Being a sales manager at Kabushiki Kawaii generally ensures a constant flow of colourful characters in and out of your office, which is to be expected when you’re dealing with the kind of clientele who wish to purchase a living, breathing human being- more so when those human beings are made-to-order anomalous frankensteins. All considered, Jonathan Grunch probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as he was when he found a stout, cloaked man with an entire Nurse Shark for a left arm (He’d been sure to google the species shortly after the man walked in) and some kind of glowing rune carved into his skull (Which he had also been sure to google, but with less success) shambling into his office at eleven in the morning. Still, a client is a client, and this one was asking for a big enough order to overlook his… oddities.

With a quick realization that the walking video game miniboss had finished his rant about… evolution? The Cambrian explosion? It was hard to tell, and Jonathan had zoned out about five seconds in to go back to unsuccessfully googling the rune. Still, he was obviously done with it, and his blank stare indicated he wanted an answer to something.

“Right… before we continue, and I apologize for the repetition, but I must ask specifically- what did you say your.. 'organization' was after, again?”

Smooth, as always. Or, at least, smooth enough to get the insane shark man to get back to business.

The man’s eyes narrow for a moment, but whatever thought caused it quickly passes out of his mind. Possibly into that of the shark, given its expression, but then again they’ve always been hard faces to read.

“We uh, we need six of ya’ finest produce, at whatever’s ya’ most modest price”

His voice as gruff and New Jerseyian as one might expect from a squat, round man with a shark for an arm, but underpinned with the kind of naivety only a poorly informed buyer can muster. An easy sell, obviously.

“And… what product would that be, sir? We offer a large number of fine products at, of course, a reasonable price for such luxury quality. You won’t find anyone else offering the kind of quality service we do here.”

Predominantly because any competitor had been bankrupted, bought out, exposed then turned over to The Authority and, in one particularly gratuitous case, assassinated by a covert squad of elite half-feline operatives. That didn’t make it less true, of course, and obviously the shark-cult-rune-man agreed. He wouldn’t be here otherwise.

“Oh of course, of course, ya’ know we wouldn’t expect any less. Yous got a good track record with some buddies of ours- we uh, we was hopin’ you’d be able ta’ hook us up the same as you did for those guys. Great Lakes Malthus, was their name.”

Jonathan barely managed to suppress a scowl at being reminded of that fiasco, choosing instead to chew on his lip in feigned thoughtfulness.

“Hmm. Right, of course, the… GLM. Right.”

He took another moment of lip-chewing to try and regain composure, only stopping when the obnoxious taste of copper started to inform him that the act was slipping.

“I.. am contractually obligated to remind you that modifying or altering our products without the use of a proprietary-licensed member of our genetic support staff is against our terms of service. Of course, I don’t mean to be presumptuous of your intentions, but following the… incident you’re referring to, we made substantial changes to the transparency of our modification policies.”

Just being forced to remember the paperwork headache that was the disposal of eighty four shambling flesh monstrosities- that is, amateurish shambling flesh monstrosities, the slobbering morons couldn’t even be bothered to shell out for an actual fleshsmith, and just tried to homebrew it- was already giving him a migraine. It’s not easy to kill something that’s already technically (and, according to at least four major religions) dead, let alone one that’s broken its mental conditioning and decided it’s time to go kill-bill on its creators. Legal must’ve had a field day trying, and failing, to weasel out of a refund.

Still, he didn’t pick this shark man to be a total idiot, so self inflicted suicide via mutated C cup cat girls seemed unlikely to be his intent.

“Oh, yes, of course, we ain’t lookin’ to uh, follow in their footsteps (gods rest their souls). We just, ya’ know, me and the boys are just hurtin’ for new recruits. Thought some foxy little ladies, and boys a’ course since it’s twenty-nineteen, would help bring in the new blood, ya’ know?”

As if to top off the sentiment, the shark grafted to his left shoulder gasped in an uncomfortably audible show of its agreement. Jonathan’s sigh in reply managed to twist itself into a whistle of agreement just quickly enough to avoid detection.

“Hm, well, I think we can definitely do that. Testimonials show our products can improve sales rates by up to 23.2% when used in an advertising role, similar results seem likely for… group membership. Do you have a model in mind?”

The number seemed to perk the man up- or, the man and the shark? The two’s status as independent entities, or simply two portions of the same beast, remained unclear. He’d have to google it later. Whatever he was, all four of his eyes glistened at the possible improvement.

“Oh wonderful! Wonderful, sounds very good to me, we uh- ya’ got any of those kit-soony girls? We heard they’re hot right now with the kids, I think ‘cause of the Naruto.”

It took a significant amount of effort to ignore the man’s pronunciation and swap tabs from “runeology.com/sharks” into the internal KK database. Everyone remembers the fancy names advertisement cooks up, but only the most obnoxious office know-it-alls know the model numbers off by heart, and Grunch had no intent of being that pathetic.

“Right. In that style we have the… Deluxe Vulpes Package- full gender spectrum, full suite of extras available, the.. ah, an older model, the Sacred Flame line- only female, these ones, but they come in all age ranges, depending on your, ahem, preferences. Aaaand..”

A new entry? Not unusual, but the vulpine range hadn’t been as popular as expected, not too many buyers anymore, so the idea R&D would scrape something new for it was suspicious. Still, another option, and one hot off the presses by the looks of it.

“Ah, an extremely new luxury line, first shipping to be available a few weeks from now. Seems like they just pulled the genetic template together from some trace genes. They’re calling them the… hrm. The ‘Hiroshima Special’? That’s.. I suppose that’s HR’s problem. It’s a good package though, female-only again but with a full suite of anomalous extras baked in, some stuff like minor shapeshifting, all at no charge.”

He scrolled through the profile a little further, memorizing a few smaller quirks of the model. Innate potential to learn some more anomalous tricks? Potential to expand some of the genetic elements into part of the shapeshifter lines? And… huh. That’s certainly a new one.

“Hm, says here it’s even made with real Kitsun- ah, ‘kit-soony’ genetic material. No idea where the labs scraped that from, but makes it fairly unique amongst our lines.”

The occult man’s face, and indeed, general bodyplan, indicated he cared very little for authenticity in his products, particularly in his living advertising fodder.

“Ah, nah, don’t need none a’ that stuff. Just wanna go with the uh, Sacred Flames ones, don’t need no fancy extras. How much do ya’ think they’d cost?”

Jonathan creaked out a thoughtful “hm” as he scrolled up and down the catalogue aimlessly. He knew the pricing offhand, of course, you don’t make it to head of sales without it, but this was obviously a man who’d appreciate the appearance of effort, and that was a bare minimum he was prepared to offer.

“Right, six Sacred Flame would normally cost you, with our…” The urge to say “unfortunate” welled up, and was subsequently suppressed “…ahem, Friend Referral discount, would total to 80 000 USD.”

The immediate frown on the man- and possibly also on his shark- showed the con was working as expected. Malthus were not a group considered particularly asset rich.

“…However, as it’s a bulk purchase, an old model, and we have a surplus- that ensures you’re not paying for gestation- your total drops to… Hm, 45 500? I’ll have to tell sales about this one, this is basically selling at a loss!”

The frown(s?) turned instantly, and the occultist quickly scrambled to pull some kind of glowing card from his pocket, slapping it on the table. Luckily for everyone involved, he decided not to utilize the shark arm.

“Oh that’s wonderful, thank yous’, I can do that deal right here- do ya’ take American Runic Express?”

Jonathan, whose hands raised a little too defensively at the suddenly produced artifact, quickly drops them and shakes his head.

“Oh, no, my apologies, I’m not authorized to do transactions. I’ll forward you on to Martha, the sales exec, she’s a wonderful woman and will be sure to hash out the finer details with you.”

Truth was he certainly could authorize payments, but even the idea of nailing down the value of whatever golden orbs and flesh dollars this schmuck counted as currency was giving him a migraine. Either way, Martha had taken his yogurt out of the office fridge yesterday and she was in for some karmic retribution anyway.

“Ah thank yous’ mister, uh, Gunch? I’ll be sure ya’ tell m’ friends about yous’ and your great service!”

With that, he hobbled out of the office, dripping a steady stream of… something that could’ve been saliva, salt water or something in between, from the maw of his dangling piscine arm, and onto the waiting shag carpet.

With a sigh, Jonathan tapped the button on his intercom, the electronic click indicating a connection.

“Janice? Forward the… lovely man onto Martha. Oh.. and be a doll, could you figure out what my next appointment is? I need a chaser after that guy.”

The crumbling of papers echoed back through the intercom for a moment, before a voice just chipper and focus-tested enough to betray its lab-grown nature replied.

“Oh of course mister Grunch! Hmm… says here you’ve got a meeting with a um… hm, a representative from a group calling themselves ‘Moms Against Magic’? I um, I see her out in the lobby, she’s holding a protest sign.”

A frustrated sigh that’d built itself up steadily over the last half hour exploded from Jonathan, and his left temple began to throb distinctly.

“God, tell management I’m clocking out for lunch.”

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